Inter-state racket selling carcass meat from dumping grounds busted in Bengal; ex-CPM councillor among 10 nabbed
It is suspected that the meat, after being processed with chemicals and frozen to a temperature of around minus 44 degree Fahrenheit, was sold to traders in Bihar, Odisha and Assam.kolkata Updated: Apr 27, 2018 15:18 IST
The Bengal Police has busted a racket that has been selling the meat of dead animals left in dumping grounds over the past five years. It is suspected that the meat, after being processed with chemicals and frozen to a temperature of around minus 44 degree Fahrenheit, was sold to traders in Bihar, Odisha and Assam. Some of the accused told police that frozen carcass meat might have been smuggled into neighbouring countries as well.
As much as 20 tons of meat, neatly packet in 1000 plastic packets, was seized on Thursday from a private cold storage in the Narkeldanga area of Kolkata. Till Friday afternoon, 10 people were arrested from Bengal and Bihar during an investigation that began last week.
Among those nabbed is Manik Mukherjee, 62, a CPI(M) leader who served as a councillor of Gayeshpur municipality in Nadia district between 1990 and 2000. Police said he was also an employee of the adjoining Kalyani municipality and was in charge of the dumping grounds from where carcasses were regularly picked up for meat. He retired two years ago but allegedly used his influence to help the racket thrive.
Police found that the owners of the cold storage, where many traders store food products, were unaware of the operation. They were told that the packets contained fish.
The accused have been charged under Sections 272, 273 and 308 of Indian Penal Code and Section 16 of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, West Bengal. While Sections 272 and 273 deals with adulteration of food or drink intended for sale, Section 308 deals with attempt to commit culpable homicide.
The incident, the first of its kind in Bengal, has created a stir because all types of animals ranging from cows to cats are left to decompose in dumping grounds. Normally, scavenging birds and animals feed of these carcasses.
“The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has requested the state forensic science laboratory to test samples of the meat since we don’t have the equipment to find out what species of animals were ending up as food,” said Atin Ghosh, member, mayor-in-council of the civic body. Though there have been rumours that the racket supplied meat to shopkeepers and restaurants in Kolkata and surrounding areas, the authorities have found no proof yet.
The investigation was started by Budge Budge police station in the South 24 Parganas district on April 20 after it arrested two men who were caught red-handed by local people while carrying a huge quantity of animal meat in a taxi.
“Four special teams were formed to conduct this investigation. The police raided places in Sonarpur and Budge Budge in the South 24 Parganas, Kankinara and Bhatpara in the North 24 Parganas and Narkeldanga and Tangra in Kolkata. The racket deployed informers at every dumping ground in these places. Their job was to send an alert every time a carcass was dumped,” Koteswara Rao Nalvath, superintendent of police, Diamond Harbour, told the media. “We are looking for the kingpin,” he added.
The Budge Budge police unearthed the racket after some residents of Subhas Udyan area (around 28 km from Kolkata) caught Raja Mullick, a casual worker of the local municipality and Vincent Simon, a taxi driver, while some meat and animal parts were being smuggled out in the taxi.
“Initial investigation revealed that these people used to sell the meat in some street markets in the Sealdah area of Kolkata. We collected more information and arrested Sunny Mullick, one of the key players, from Nawada district in Bihar. Another key player, Sharafat Hussain, was nabbed in Kalyani. They told us that they sent this meat to Bihar, Odisha and even Assam” said Tapas Sinha, officer-in-charge, Budge Budge police station.
Last week, Kolkata Municipal Corporation employees collected samples of mutton and chicken items as well as samples of raw meat from a few eateries in Sealdah market. These will be tested at KMC laboratories to determine if the meat were fresh.
Though there was no specific information or complaint, the Kolkata civic body started acting on its own after Friday’s arrests. This was done because last month the city woke up to rumours that chicken meat soaked in chemicals used for preserving dead bodies were being sold in the markets. However, repeated raids yielded no proof.
“The racked was discovered after one of the wheels of the taxi fell in a deep pothole and the driver asked for help from some locals. When the vehicle didn’t move after much pushing, the locals decided to empty the luggage compartment and found the meat,” said Gautam Dasgupta, vice chairman of Budge Budge municipality.
While the arrests made headlines, citizens became concerned. On Friday morning, people living near the Kolkata airport caught a man who was carrying around 70 kilos of meat, apparently that of chicken, to a local restaurant. Locals complained that the meat was decomposed and called the police. The man was detained for questioning.